Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reporting from 2013 WNC Annual Conference

             It’s that time of year again, when I get to bring news of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference which took place last week.  I want to report on this year’s focus which was: Becoming the “Missional Church.” As you may be aware, last year the annual conference made the decision to shift from 15 districts down to 8. The changes we have experienced over the last year have been both tedious and helpful.        
              Our district superintendents are now referred to as District Missional Strategists. Missional Networks have been formed so that churches can work together to extend the mission of the church into our local geographical areas. The way forward is fully about missions…of all kinds, local, national and international.
              We were encouraged last year to focus on change and innovation in our local churches in order to reach those people outside our churches who do not (and marginally) have a relationship with God.        
              The focus this year at annual conference centered on motivating churches to be intentional about moving beyond the walls of the church to serve Jesus in our communities.  We are no longer to be about maintaining our organizations, but rather we are to focus all our resources in mission.
              Bishop Goodpaster summed up the theme with his words to the conference in our last worship together. “Get outta here. Get busy. Go. Go. Go. Get outta here!” The Bishop hopes that we will develop and play-out a “missional faith.” A missional faith is one that “stays focused on the heart of God in order to serve Christ in the present age.”

Bishop Goodpaster
(Photo captured from WNCC Facebook photos)
              Serving Christ in the present age certainly presents us with a great many challenges. However, Bishop Goodpaster explained that faith is not something we have and hold, but rather “faith is a verb.” Faith as a verb means that we live it out, love it out, give it out, send it out, serve it out. Having faith is like having a new pair of dancing shoes, unless we go dancing…what good are they? We are to go out fearlessly. In the clergy session, Bishop Goodpaster told all pastors, “Be brave, be bold and be reasonable. Take the authority that you are given by the church to make a difference. Don’t worry…I’ve got your back.”
              We were also blessed and inspired by great worship and messages. Bishop Peter Weaver brought us a word about who Jesus really is from Matthew 25. He said that Jesus is the person “out there,” in those to whom we are sent. He said that many people are facing the “midnight” of their lives, grieving, oppressed, broken, hurting, hungry, ready to give up. Bishop Weaver said that we are called to serve them…to serve Jesus in them…to go into those dark midnights with love, help, service, and friendship. We are to stand on God and God’s promises, so that our courage will overcome any fears or threats that are pelted at us by naysayers, friends, families, committees or councils.
              We were excited and encouraged by reports of the varied missions and ministries that have developed during the last year in the “just-outside-our-door” mission fields. For example in Stanley, the First UMC developed a mission called Common Ground by making available a 90 acre plot of ground where people can come and connect with the out of doors; where they can worship, play, be with their families, and experience God in a non-traditional setting. This is just one of the exciting new missional endeavors happening in our conference.
               I could go on and on about the encouraging words we received, but what I am encouraged by the most is that I know that God knows exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Both in our individual lives and in our community life at Pisgah UMC, seeking God for the way forward is thrilling prospect. This year is the year to let go of the fears that hold us and “get outta the church into our communities.” This year let’s commit to meeting Jesus in the people we are yet to know…He’s out there. If you don’t believe me…read Matthew 25.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Celebrating God's Blessings!

            I have been celebrating ever since Saturday because of the great blessings we received at the Pisgah UMC Food Drop Friday and Saturday when we partnered with Christian Ministries of Lincoln County to reach more people with food.
              As a mobile drop site, we received some 13,500 lbs. of food from the 2nd Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte, NC.  All the food nearly filled the entire fellowship hall with bread, crackers, chips, sports drinks, flavored waters, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and other kid-friendly food items. We were able to serve 111 families with approximately 125 lbs. of food per family.

This food brought to us was gleaned from food manufacturers, warehouses, stores, and produce growers and was gathered at 2nd Harvest Food Bank. The food has no cost since it is donated. There is but a $300 transportation cost. I’m happy to report that due to a fund-raiser we had back on Palm Sunday, the United Methodist Men of Pisgah UMC were able to fund the entire event, paying for the transportation and all the supplies we used.

Volunteers came from many places, Laboratory UMC, Marvin UMC, Asbury UMC, and Pisgah UMC. On Friday some 20 volunteers rolled the big pallets of food in and got it ready to be loaded into boxes to be given away on Saturday. On Friday Laboratory UMC also brought food to be distributed. Other food we had to give away came from members of Pisgah UMC and some was gathered from the 2013 confirmation class members! (These people are awesome!)

Then on Saturday, we had 45 devoted souls who came to do the work of distributing the food to needy families. They directed traffic, bagged produce, took qualifying applications (USDA poverty guidelines were used), packed boxes, carried those heavy boxes, and loaded car trunks and back seats with food. They also took loads of food to qualified families who were unable to make it to the drop themselves.

 All day long we were blessed by our work together. I really saw God’s kingdom in action in a mighty way! There was laughter, tears, hugs, prayers, silliness, fun and a generosity of Spirit that energized us like the wind of the Holy Spirit energized the disciples at Pentecost.

My prayers were answered! We had no accidents. (Maybe a few sore backs on Sunday morning.) We had awesome volunteers/disciples to do the hard work. We were able to give away all the food. We were finished and had everything cleaned up by noon. Most importantly, we caught sight of the Kingdom of God in one another!

I am so thankful to be in ministry at Pisgah UMC, a church of Jesus’ disciples who are eager to respond to any need they know of, who step up to give love, to minister, to pray, to worship and try new things, and even to reach into their pockets to be a blessing to our community. God’s people at Pisgah are a blessing to me! Wow!

On Sunday morning we celebrated our blessings with reading again the story of Jesus when he fed the 5000 (Mark 6: 35-44). Jesus was able to see a need and address it immediately. Today to address a need, Jesus works it out differently.

Today, Jesus takes the body of believers, brings them together in one accord, and then he orchestrates the feeding of the multitude through each of us…the members of his body.  Saturday, we could have been on a hillside in Judea instead of being at Pisgah UMC, because we witnessed Jesus do the same work he did there. With the 5 loaves and 2 fish ($300), we fed 111 families for at least a day…probably 2 or 3 days more. Not 5000 perhaps, but it’s a start.

We are doing another Food Drop in October! (More about that later.) I just want to say how thankful I am to God for  the vision of the Kingdom of God the strong -hearted people of the UMC gave me Saturday!
One word...WHOOWHO!

Some pictures below and....a video at if you care to see it. 



Traffic Handler. So serious.